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MG TD TF 1500 - Americans driving in UK

David , I don't understand see what your problem was in acclimating to driving in England-
I remember:
1. Arriving after a "red-eye" flight and brain-dead.
2. Getting into a small car with the steering wheel on the "wrong" side; manual transmission and the shifter with my left hand.
3. Having to negotiate out of a busy and unfamiliar airport using airport transfers sevenoaks, with the stress of the above.
4. Confronting different roadsigns, and unfamiliar highways.
5. Negotiating to the inside lane of roundabouts with traffic at 90 miles an hour.
6. Constantly being reminded of staying on the wrong side of the road by an extremely nervous passenger on the wrong side of the car.
7. Reminding myself that this was fun and I was really having a memorable experience-

Really don't see the issue ;>)


D C Congleton

You forgot shifting with yur left hand and the "H" pattern being out of what you are used to.
Colin Stafford

The worst challenges are the car parks without painted lanes. Our tendency is to revert to the subconscious, and that means right-side. Car parks are bad enough in the U.S.A. If you are driving in the U.K., constantly remind yourself to 'think left' and mind the gap.

And oh, did we mention street parking? Between the crowded villages, towns and cities and the privately-chartered parking meter maids (sic) there is just no fun anymore. Take a train, bus or taxi, have an extra Guinness in the pub and enjoy the ride.
Tom Balutis

What do you do if you go to shift the gears and end up opening the door?
Russ Oakley

I refuse to drive in England, after almost killing myself and my wife in Jamaica some years ago. Returning to Montego Bay after a long day touring (me driving) I complained to my wife: "Look at this fool coming at us on the wrong side of the road!" Guess who was on the wrong side of the road, where my instincts took me - and I did not realize it, even after steadily reminding myself, all day, to be aware of the "English" system. Since that time, and during repeated visits, I have refused to drive - not trusting myself and my U.S. driving reflexes. I am also sure that I am not the only person with a similar experience. RUSS
D. R. Young

Before we went to the UK the first time my wife made me get into our B on the passengers side and practice shifting with my left hand. It worked but the first day there was a bit of a chore. Our fight was also a red eye and we arrived in Heathrow at about 8 in the morning. Had to wait until 11 to get a connecting flight to Edinburgh and then picked our the car there and drove to Dundee. That trip was a real awakening. Managed to knock the mirror off the passengers side, and also hit a curb (sorry kerb) and flattened the tire. Finally got to Dundee what seemed like days later and after checking in to the hotel I asked my wife where she wanted to go for dinner. Her answer was "Call Room Service, I'm not leaving this room tonight". The rest of our four weeks were great and the second time we went I was an old pro and had no problems at all.

George Herschell
George R Herschell

"What do you do if you go to shift the gears and end up opening the door?" The best bet would be to go ahead and bail out. I had had experience driving a right hand drive car, we used to own a 36 MG PB, so that part didn't really bother me (the shift on the PB was the mirror image to the pattern on cars nowadays, even those in the UK). That and the small car wouldn't have bothered me, as I said, we are used to driving MGs (everyday) on the wide lanes here in the US and we got stuck with a full sized Toyota, which on the narrow British lanes felt to be as wide as Hummer, if not as one of our 18 wheelers. The rest of Dallas' list applies though. I did find that the Brits that we wound up in front of on their side of the road were wonderfully patient with this poor confused Yank, who obviously didn't know how to drive. They would just stop and wait for me to sort things out then drive on with a smile and a wave. I am quite ready for another trip to England and doing it all over again (I don't know if the Brits are ready for it though). Cheers - Dave
David DuBois

I've had my share of "on the wrong side adventures".

One horrible, when driving my LHD MGB on a roundabout I didn't see the Ford Capri that was hidden by the rearview mirror. The damage was considerable...

One hilarious, when during a big classic car event at Silverstone in the early morning I drove red-eyed (caused by Guinness the night before, not flight) on the right (=wrong) side of the road. The car we almost drove into was a huge pre-war Bentley; that towering grille is very intimidating when viewed from close by sitting in a Mini....

I will never forget the mild words of the policeman that stop us afterwards, shaking his head; "thought you were at home, eh?"

Willem van der Veer

Even more terrifying for those who drive on the wrong (ie right hand) side of the road is when you take them for a ride in your rhd UK car on Continental road. All they can see is cars rushing towards them and not be able to do anything about it! I remember a French friend sat absolutely rigid when I drove him around Nice.

David Wardell

My first trip to Ireland, five minutes out of Shannon, I rounded a bend and faced a very large Guinness lorry heading right for me. I ditched on the wrong side of the road and have had no problems in 20 trips back since. We lose a rental mirror occasionally but the rental car company is very nice and just said 'oh, we replace a lot of them...don't worry about it.' I still have an orientation problem when backing out of a drive into a which way do I look?

How many pedestrian tourists have ended up getting hit???? Always look 'RIGHT' in Britain before crossing!!!! LEFT in the States..... and 'DOWN' in Canada (lot of dogs up here)!!!!!
gblawson - TD#27667

My right hand driving experience was crossing into the USA from Canada in my TC. The US border guard said that I would not be allowed in driving a car that had the steering of the wrong side since I would not be able to see traffic coming towards me. I took a tape measure and showed him that the distance from the center of my steering wheel to the left hand side of the car was less than the distance from the center of the steering wheel to the left hand side of the motor home behind me. I told him “it is just like driving a motor home with nothing to the right of the driver.” He let me in! :-)
Godspeed in Safety Fast
John Crawley

I have been driving right hand drive cars in the US since 1977 when I bought my first MG, a 1952 YB saloon. (Should have kept that one!) No big problems. I have had a succession of RHD's since then and currently own only one - a 1902 Oldsmobile.

My first experience driving in a Brit style country was in Thailand in 1970. I was on a US Air Force Base and had to take a LHD, 40' long, 5,000 gallon fuel servicing truck (no trailer) across base. I had no problems pulling out of the compound into the left lane and managed to stay there. It took a few minutes to get used to keeping the big truck to the left. The rest of my tour was a piece of cake. Somehow, I have never had the experience of driving a RHD car in a left side of the road country.
John Masters

In their imperial wisdom, Brits must have thought in the early 50's that people in Switzerland drive in the same lane as in England - in fact, Swiss trains are at the left - and so export TD's for Switzerland were all right-had-drive. Even though like the rest of "right" Europe we have been driving on the r.h.s ever since! But once you get the habit, you drive and shift correctly even in a "wrong" car like mine - it actually offers some advantages some times.

However, I would be scared to drive in England! Everything is on the wrong side and, worse, roundabouts turn clockwise instead of counterclockwise! Though for decades many English people drove on the "continent", so I guess it's possible!

Denis, r.h.d. 1950 TD
Denis L Baggi

I have only just picked up this thread after a holiday in Greece. We Brits regularly drive on the "wrong side of the road" as soon as we leave our shores. I was told many years ago in Spain that it is no problem if you keep the bit you are sitting on over the white line, as the locals do.But not in your UK car!.
Ray Lee

RAY LEE: I could not resist a comment on your Post.
We (the marital ""we") were in Greece two years ago, including a week on Corfu, during which time I drove a French Peugout (sp?) van. The Greeks have a most nonchalant attitude towards driving; the roads have been laid out by a demented traffic engineer; the mountains do not help; donkey traffic has the right of way (apparently); and - at one time - I found myself driving down what I thought was a pedestrian walkway in the old part of the Corfu City, with no idea how I got there, but sharing the same with other cars and motorcycles. The saving grace was that all of it took place on the "right side" of the road/walkway. To that extent, the British system was still the worst. RUSS YOUNG
D. R. Young

The first time we went to the UK I put two pieces of masking tape on the dash board of the rental car. The one on the left side of the steering wheel had an arrow cut pointing left, and the other, on the opposite side had an arrow cut pointing right. On the one on the left with a magic marker I wrote DRIVE and the one on the right I wrote LOOK. Worked out fine and as I said before I only knocked one door mirror off on the first day there.

George Herschell
George R Herschell

Was in North Carolina a few years ago driving an MGB and felt most uncomfortable - they put the gearstick on the wrong side in American cars! Not to mention roundabouts and supermarket carparks! A most unnecessary complication! Should be all one way or the other, doesn't matter which! Actually US was RHD up till about 1905. Would be much harder on a motorbike though.
Regards, Richard.
R Payne

Whatever - 70% of the worlds drivers are on the nightside of the road, with the number increasing daily due to the Chinese ;>)

Early American cars mostly drove on the right side, but some had center tills and some had the steering wheel on the right side of the car, but also driving in the right side lane.

A little "googleing"

All early automobiles in the USA (driving on the right-hand side of the road) were right-hand-drive, following the practice established by horse-drawn buggies. They changed to left-hand-drive in the early 1900s as it was decided that it was more practical to have the driver seated near the centrer line of the road, both to judge the space available when passing oncoming cars, and to allow front-seat passengers to get out of the car onto the pavement instead of into the middle of the street.

Ford changed to left-hand-drive in the 1908 model year. A Ford catalogue from 1908 explains the benefits of placing the controls on the left side of the car:
“The control is located on the left side, the logical place, for the following reasons: Travelling along the right side of the road the steering wheel on the right side of the car made it necessary to get out on the street side and walk around the car. This is awkward and especially inconvenient if there is a lady to be considered. The control on the left allows you to step out of the car on to the curbing without having had to turn the car around.
In the matter of steering with the control on the right, the driver is farthest away from the vehicle he is passing, going in opposite direction; with it on the left side he is able to see even the wheels of the other car and easily avoids danger.”

Maybe the English adamantly stayed on the left because the French (and Americans) were on the right ;>)

D C Congleton

I can't resist these bits from pro-British story. When you rode your horse and you had to pass someone, you would do it of course of the left hand side, since you had to use your right to possibly pull out the sword. This is why your shirt buttons with the flap coming over from the left, to protect you from the wind. However, the lady you gallantly carry and protect sits across with her legs to the left, hence her shirt buttons the other way around. So the Brits have always had it right!

R.h.s. TD, Export model
Denis L Baggi

... and don't forget that most people are 'right-eyed' - the right eye is stronger than the left, enabling you to see better when overtaking something on their right your left hand side ... well, that's my theory anyway ;-)

David Wardell

Doesn't much matter as long as the guy coming at you is driving the same way!!!
You know, if in all of Britain there were only two rhd cars....and in all of North America there were only two lhd cars... within two months all 4 would be involved in a two car accident!!!!!
gblawson - TD#27667

This thread was discussed between 11/09/2007 and 20/09/2007

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